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Rabbi Moses Maimonides (“Rambam”)

14 Nisan, 4895 – 20 Tevet, 4965 (C.E. 1135 – 1204)

Rambam and his prominent Rabbinical family were forced to flee from Cordova, Spain, due to the religious civil wars that raged in that country during his youth. From there, he eventually made his way to Fez, Morocco. Finally he moved to Egypt and became the personal physician of the Sultan.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam)
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam)

He was the leader for the entire Jewish community there and in all the Arab lands. (This included for the Jews of Yemen, who were enduring severe religious persecution from the Moslems at that time). His great works of Torah scholarship include Mishneh Torah (“The Second to the Torah”), “The Book of the Commandments,” and “Guide for the Perplexed.” (Scroll down for links to video and audio lessons.)

The source for the following text [used with permission] is “Sichos In English,” Vol. 26; this is a translation of that talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on 11 Nissan, 5745

It will suffice to repeat one line which serves as the epitaph at [Rambam’s] tomb in Tiberias: “From Moshe to Moshe, none arose like Moshe!”

…From the days of Moshe our teacher till Moshe ben Maimon of Spain — a period of 50 generations which saw Joshua, Elders, Prophets, Early Sages, and Later Sages, no one reached so lofty a level to be compared to Moshe, except for Moshe ben Maimon. This approbation is attested to by the fact that all of the greatest sages of Israel have agreed with this epitaph…

Similarly, the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah fulfilled his own prophecy that he would be accepted by small and great alike who study and respect his Torah-law rulings. Similarly, it is about Tiberias that Rambam writes, that the “Sanhedrin is destined to be reconvened [there first] in the future”; how appropriate that his epitaph is engraved in stone in Teveriah…

May G-d grant… the fulfillment of the promise with which Rambam concludes his Mishneh Torah: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)

Then everyone will increase their study of [works by] Rambam and observance of Torah its commandments [613 for Jews, and 7 for Gentiles], starting with the mitzvah: “To know there is a G-d,” of which Rambam says: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being.” (Mishneh Torah, Foundations of Torah 1:1)

In other words, not only irrational faith but also belief which penetrates into the level of conscious intelligence. This is knowledge! To know: …that there is a Primary Being who brought every existing thing into being. All existing things, whether celestial, terrestrial, or belonging to an intermediate class exist only through His true Existence.” (Ibid.)

Mishneh Torah concludes with Torah laws of the Messiah and the Messianic Era

This of course is the same theme as the conclusion of the [Mishneh Torah by] Rambam: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:5) By studying this Torah principle it will affect the reality, as the Zohar states: “The Holy One, Blessed be He gazed into the Torah and created the world … when people observe the Torah they sustain the world.” May it come speedily…

Rambam’s Mishneh Torah … is a work of Torah Law, having gathered all the rulings of the Oral Tradition, so that all the details are clear to the small as well as the great. Thus its scope includes the details of Torah which influence the world, and uplift the materialism to a higher level… [At] the completion … he writes:

“In that [Messianic] era … all pleasures will be abundant like the sand of the earth” (Laws of Kings 12:5).

Now if all the luxuries of the world will be abundant, as Rambam says, they will lose their value and will be equated with sand! The person will not experience delight from those pleasures. A question then arises: How will the human sense of pleasure operate at that time? Certainly if G-d created it, it must have some function.

But the answer is, as Rambam continues to explain: “… the one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the L-rd” (ibid). In other words, the pleasure of that era will be in knowing G-d. As King David said: “To behold the pleasantness of the L-rd” (Psalms 27:4), and as the verse says: “Then shall you delight yourself in the L-rd …” (Isaiah 58:14).

Rambam says that everyone’s preoccupation [“esek”] [in that era] will be to know G-d.

Rambam and the Alter Rebbe provided living examples

By using the term esek [which is the word normally used for toiling in business], he means to indicate that there will be a steady profit and increase. In other words, in the pleasure of beholding G-d there will be a steady increase, to the point of “dveikus” [rapturous cleaving to G-d].

The [third Lubavitcher Rebbe,] Tzemach Tzedek attributes this level of dveikus to the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe once paraphrased the verse in Psalms: “For whom shall I have in Heaven one day? and beside You [G-d], I have no other desire on earth.” On this the Alter Rebbe said: “That which is ‘beside’ You I don’t want, I want not physical pleasures, I want not spiritual pleasures …; I don’t want anything which is only ‘beside’ You. I want You alone. …”

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe

If such a level is attainable in this world how much more so when Moshiach [the true Messiah] comes, when all desire will be only in G-d. …

When we speak of the legacy of the great sages of old, in addition to the knowledge we garner from their written works there is also much to be gleaned from studying their biographies and their talks, customs and lifestyles. As the Talmud tells us: “From the casual conversation of R. Gamliel we have learned …” and “… even the casual conversation of scholars demands study.” How much more so, can we learn from their actions and regular activities.

From the life story of Rambam we may learn much in the way of actual Torah law – “guidance” for the perplexed – and we may also observe the real, down-to-earth application of his teachings. First, what special matters do we find in his Code [the Mishneh Torah]?

Rambam’s focus on the Noahide Commandments and Moshiach

In Rambam’s Code there are two special, unique and overwhelming aspects which are important to note and which single his work out among all the other codifiers. The first is the fact that Rambam includes all the laws of the Torah in his Code, including the laws of the Holy Temple, and even the laws pertaining to Moshiach.

The second is the fact that Rambam teaches us and gives the Torah-law details of the Seven Noachide Laws, introducing them by stating:
“Moreover Moshe, our teacher, was commanded by G-d to compel all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach…. A Gentile who accepts the Seven Commandments and observes them scrupulously is a “Pious Gentile” and will have a portion in the World to Come.” (Laws of Kings 8:10-11)

…Rambam brings at the end of the Laws of Kings that Moshiach [will be the one who]:

“… prevails upon [the people of] Israel to walk in the ways of the Torah and repair its breaches, and fights the battles of the L-rd … rebuilds the Holy Temple on its site and gathers the dispersed of Israel…. He will then prepare the whole world to serve the L-rd with one accord, as it is written: ‘For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the L-rd , to serve Him with one consent’ (Tzephaniah 3:9).” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11:4)

Just as it is the responsibility of a Jew today to see that the world is civilized and G-d-fearing, so too will Moshiach bring the perfection, that all the nations will “… serve G-d with one consent.” This we find in the Code [Mishneh Torah].

Rambam’s dedication to helping people in need

Similarly, in his daily life we find his regular custom was to assist all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. There is the well-known letter of the Rambam in which he describes his difficult daily schedule and he writes that after returning home from his daily visit to the Sultan’s palace, “… I find all the foyers and waiting rooms filled with people, Gentiles and Jews are there … I then go out to treat them, to write prescriptions and medical advice to heal their sickness … till late at night … and I reach a state of utter weakness and exhaustion….”

In the Rambam’s daily lifestyle, which serves as a living example for us, how we are to help those who need our help, he shows us that it must be done without consideration for the difficulty of the service, to the point of self-sacrifice. For the Rambam set aside many hours every day for helping others, without being concerned for his own well-being.

Therefore, in addition to learning in the Code of Maimonides how one must act to improve the world and civilization we also learn a lesson from the Rambam’s personal daily activity, that he toiled and dedicated his life to helping everyone, Jews and Gentiles, dealing with the most basic of all assistance, their health.

When people will gather to celebrate the completion of the [annual study of the Mishneh Torah by] Rambam — it is appropriate that this lesson shall also be taught. We must improve the world and the level of civilization, by teaching the Gentile the Seven Noachide Laws – and in our personal lives we must extend help to all, wherever and whenever we can…

Organize public events to honor Rambam

And this brings us to the importance of organizing programs in honor of Rambam even among Gentiles. As we see that Morocco, Spain, Egypt and the U.N. have designated times and activities to honor Rambam, recognizing him as the Great Codifier and Prince of the Jews — being that he was appointed as Nassi [leader] over the Jewish community in Egypt, etc.

Thus it is important to encourage Gentiles to honor the 850th birthday of Rambam [in 19’85 C.E.]. It should be stressed that Rambam cared for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, so that in his Code [the Mishneh Torah] he presented the Laws for them (Seven Noahide Laws), and in his daily life he extended a caring and helping hand for all. This will increase the knowledge of Rambam in the world and will bring an improvement in the civilization of the world…

Through all this work of teaching the Laws of Noah to the nations of the world, which is a preparation for the work of Moshiach, may we merit the ultimate and complete goal of perfecting the world with the fulfillment of the promise:
“For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the L-rd to serve Him with one consent.”


Rambam and Mishneh Torah
Rambam’s Classic Writings